LONG-TERM CARE AND PRISONS
Abolish all institutions:
Long-term care homes remove people's autonomy, access to community, and access to life-sustaining supports. Institutions are inherent to their nature as cost-reducing spaces have increased rates for death, abuse, and things that cause us harm. Our communities are worse when we don’t have disabled people in them.
Disabled people and elders are so important for the entire community. Through them we learn about adapting, surviving, and intergenerational movement building and knowledge sharing, as well as mutual aid systems. When we remove people from a community we are removing them from culture, community, food, and removing them from relationships, memories, storytelling, heritage, and wisdom. People in these institutions struggle to have their families and children visit, and at times do not have access to technology.
Caring for people is a beautiful thing to do and when we remove the opportunity for people to do that we are moving our communities toward productivity and capitalism, instead of growing and moving along with people.
Prisons in Canada are nationalized and hospitals are part of a national system, yet violence in these institutions still exists.
“Under our current carceral system much of the death and debilitation within these institutions was not preventable, because the carceral structure itself is homicidal. Abolitionist futures are the only path that will prevent the mass debilitation and death brought forth by capitalism-induced crises.” - Megan Linton
Every single person institutionalized in long-term care is disabled, the vast majority of whom are over 65 . However, more than 10% of the long-term care population are under 70–– of whom, 230 are children under the age of 18.
The problem of long-term care institutions is not exclusive to l that they are based on the segregation of disabled people –– that will not change based on who owns the system, whether the system is private or public. We know this from our experience advocating for prison abolition –– these systems cannot be reformed.
To understand the connection between long-term care we trace some of their links:
Links between Long-Term Care and our Prison Systems
Image from Toronto Star investigation, “Nursing home residents rarely get enough fresh vegetables and fruit, nutritious meats and fish — keys to health and happiness — because Ontario feeds them on $8.33 a day.”
Institutions are focused on saving costs by any means necessary, and this applies to food industries. Consider just one company, Aramark, responsible for food services in prison and long-term care facilities in Canada. Aramark is used in 300 acute, long-term care and retirement homes across Canada.
American research documents aramark's infractions range from:
Altering expiration dates on food
Paying workers sub-minimum wage
instructing its employees responsible for dispensing food to intentionally provide inmates less than the required serving in an effort to increase profits.
Aramark pocketed a $10.5 million in Florida alone by charging for meals it never served and by incorporating cheaper ingredients into recipes
People in prisons and long-term care have resisted food as a form of protest through organized and individual hunger strikes. When resisted, food is often force-fed. Force feeding is a torturous practice that places people's lives at risk–– they put people at extreme risk of choking.
Image from: Toronto Star
Image from: Office of the Correctional Investigator on Canada's prison food
Food within long-term care institutions and prisons is highly regulated, with little choice and minimal consideration of cultural and dietary needs. The lack of access to nutritional food and autonomy over mealtime illustrates the lack of control that people have over their lives.
Bathrooms and Hygiene:
Along with food, access to the bathroom is also restricted in both long-term care homes and prisons. When you shower and who has access to seeing you naked in the shower are conditions you have no control over in both institutional settings.
With COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care, many homes also removed shower access for weeks, or months at a time for residents.
“Alfred Borg, another resident in Newmarket, said he hasn't been allowed outside for more than a year or even had a shower for five or six months.” - Colin Berkel, CTV Toronto
Other issues exist with hygiene in long-term care homes and prisons, such as the forcing of people to lay in or sit with their feces and urine for a long period of time.
““We went from room to room, and in every room, the stench of urine and feces could have killed a horse,” A nurse told Global News in an interview.
Solitary Confinement and Violence:
Solitary confinement has been labeled by the United Nations as a form of torture, but the practice is still used in long-term care facilities, called Specialized Behavioural Units. We especially see the overrepresentation of residents with developmental disabilities being subjected to solitary confinement in long-term care facilities. In Specialized Behavioural Units, your mental health and behavior whether related to dementia, disability, or overstimulation can at times be worsened by the segregated and understimulating environment. In prisons, solitary confinement is also practiced under alternate names. People are forced into these settings, many of those are predisposed to having a disability and or a psychiatric disability and once they’re incarcerated in these spaces that are designed to under-stimulate them, they further segregate them through specialized behavioural units and administrative segregation. Similar patterns occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, where one home even resorted to removing the door handles of the units so that people could not exit their rooms. All rooms have cameras, as well as every hallway, but no one can see the cameras except for security.
Extreme forms of violence have also been recorded in long-term care settings. One example is the Nurse in Ontario who killed residents using insulin.